Nairobi/Geneva, 30 May 2017 – Tens of thousands of South Sudanese women and children have crossed the border into Sudan since the beginning of the year, fleeing violence and the looming threat of famine.

This represents a dramatic spike in the movement of people across the border. Nearly 137,000 South Sudanese have crossed into Sudan since 1 January – already more than the 131,000 that arrived during 2016, according to UNHCR. Aid workers on the ground report that the vast majority of new arrivals are women and children.

The people who are arriving are in a desperate state,” said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Regional Director for Africa for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “Most are in poor health, exhausted from their journeys, and traumatized by what they have seen and experienced.”

In all, about 417,000 South Sudanese refugees have entered Sudan since December 2013. More than half are in camps in East and South Darfur and West and South Kordofan. The Sudanese Red Crescent Society is present in these areas and has, in partnership with the UN, been supporting more than 300,000 with food aid, and about 90,000 refugees with clean water, sanitation and health services.

However, with the increased arrival of refuges, IFRC and SSRC are warning of an elevated risk of diseases such as malaria, as existing healthcare and water and sanitation services come under ever greater strain.

In response to the growing needs of refugee communities, IFRC and SSRC have launched an international emergency appeal for just under 4.2 million Swiss francs. Through this appeal, Red Crescent volunteers and staff will provide assistance to more than 63,000 people, with a range of life-saving and life-sustaining health, water, sanitation and hygiene, and emergency shelter services.

The regional consequences of the humanitarian emergency in South Sudan are rapidly worsening,” said Dr Nafo-Traoré. “There is every indication that the number of people crossing into Sudan will continue to climb.

“These people are the most vulnerable – children and women who are arriving with absolutely nothing, having already endured so much.”